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Surrounded on three sides by the turquoise Timor Sea, the Northern Territory’s capital is closer in both distance and temperament to Southeast Asia than it is to most of Australia’s major cities. The lifestyle here is tropical, which means a relaxed atmosphere, balmy weather, fabulous fusion food and vibrant outdoor markets.
This cosmopolitan city has fewer than 140,000 residents, but they include some 50 nationalities. After heavy bombing in World War II and a disastrous cyclone in 1974, Darwin has been largely rebuilt, and it's modern and well planned. In the downtown area you'll find everything from great shopping to a crocodile park. You can trace the region's dramatic history at innovative museums and gallery-hop to see indigenous art. After your sightseeing stroll, have a late lunch at one of the many excellent restaurants. The food options range from authentic Malaysian dishes like laksa, a spicy noodle soup, to a plethora of fresh seafood—mud crab, barramundi and more.
You may find it hard to leave this laid-back lifestyle, but there's much more to see close by. Darwin is the gateway to two famous national parks, Kakadu and Litchfield, as well as the spectacular Aboriginal-owned Tiwi Islands. Make sure you take the time to "go bush," as they say in Australia—that is, get out of town and relax. There's no better place to do it than this glorious part of the country.